I started this blog to keep my church, friends and family updated on my year volunteering in Katrina recovery with the Presbyterian Church (USA). I've now signed on for a second year working in disaster recovery and another year living in Mississippi. It's getting good....

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Have you seen the new movie yet? I'm loving it. Tonight I saw it for the third time. I never do that. It is too fun. And Lauren is a doll and gifted me the soundtrack. So now, instead of speaking, I sing Hairspray. Instead of walking, I dance Hairspray. It is good stuff.

This movie has been making me smile for a few days, but that's not it. Today I realized that I've been down-right giddy lately, and not just due to the joy of the return of the screen musical....there's a lot of excitement and hope going on down here.

I've got a new job and a plan for the next year. My friends all found out where they'll be living/serving on the coast for the next several months. They are staying close! I made a great new contact at a Long Term Recovery meeting today. Then, at the same meeting, they announced two new grants available to help homeowners rebuild. I met with a homeowner who saved almost all of her FEMA money and so we'll be able to start her rebuild ASAP. Lauren's moving to Mississippi. Em and Nick are moving to Mississippi. I'm smiling. I don't remember the last time I was this excited about anything down here. It is a new feeling.

And I'm diggin' it. Almost enough to make up a catchy song and dance.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Follow this!

Girls Night Out on Frenchman St followed by great girl talk on the floor of the Jenna St. shot-gun followed by several hours of uninterrupted sleep followed by more girl talk on the floor while staying in jammies until noon followed by a tasty lunch on Magazine St followed by the incident with the door at the Walgreen's followed by the incident with the bird at the A&P followed by the incident with Kerry attacking me in public in broad daylight followed by the purchase of new sunglasses at the French Market followed by walking all over the French Quarter in the late afternoon Louisiana heat interspersed with browsing old book stores and local music stores and authentic voodoo stores followed by frozen drinks and beignets at Cafe Beignet followed by a Hurricane at Pat O'Brien's with my cousin and his friends followed by dinner at Snug Harbor laced with fammered humor and wild hysterics followed by the clown car ride to Tipitinas and hours of amazing live local free music accompanied by raucous dancing with my favorite booty-shakers and several Abita Restoration Ales and one serious crush on a man named Trombone Shorty followed by a late car ride home chatting with one dear roommate followed by a very few hours sleep followed by a worship service and then reception honoring a man who's worked in the recovery efforts on the coast for over a year and a half and is now headed to seminary followed by several chocolate covered strawberries and just as many brownies followed by a lazy afternoon at home reading the paper followed by a movie slash nap with friends followed by football and dinner on the beach with my roommates including some much needed and enjoyed reminiscing time followed by the start of the great Mississippi packing adventure of 2007 hopefully followed by some serious zzzzzzzzzs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It's official!

I'm staying on the Gulf Coast for one more year!

I've accepted a staff position with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and will be continuing to help our church help our neighbors for another 12 months, at least. I'm super excited about the job, the work, the agency, the people, and the whole situation. While I will miss my family and my Dickey Memorial family terribly, I know that I'll be in good hands with my new Mississippi family!

And y'all can come visit anytime, y'hear?!

Many thanks to all of you who have supported, loved and prayed for me throughout this year. I love you so much!


Monday, July 23, 2007

In the past 36 hours:

I sang 5 of my favorite hymns in two great worship gatherings.
I joined in celebrating the contributions of two of the most influential people in my Mississippi experience.
I rocked Boggle with my roommies.
I cried my eyes out over the departure of two of my roommies.
I made a serious dent in Jane Eyre.
I fell asleep on the porch.
I enjoyed a beautiful, sunny walk along the beach.
I almost drown in my car in the bayou that has become of my back yard after daily torrential rains.
I slept about 4.5 hours, total.
I was locked out of my office.
Three homeowners called to thank us for helping them.
I did not hear back about any jobs.
I did not hear back about any pending grant requests for homeowners.
I sent a controversial email.
I pulled the wait list of 125 homeowners who've asked for our help.
I called 20 homeowners who still need help.
I prayed for all the people we won't get to this year. Or next. Or soon enough.
I enjoyed a meal lovingly prepared and presented by my roommate. I didn't lift a finger. It was a really good meal.
I washed four loads of laundry.
I saw one amazing movie with one amazing young friend who made my day.
I did not watch the presidential debate. We do not have cable tv and I wasn't home anyway.
I watched clips of the debate online and remembered why I loved cable.
I looked up more info on Dennis Kucinich eventhough I still feel like I'm a Hillary-girl.
My dad saved my butt and made my day.
My cousin emailed me and made my day (he's coming to visit this weekend).
My pastor/great friend listened, really listened, and made my day.
I developed some strange (clearly stress-related) allergy to Mississippi which involves my throat closing almost completely.

May this roller coaster ride continue......

Saturday, July 21, 2007


The reality of this year's rapidly approaching end is starting to hit hard now. My roommate Linda moved out yesterday. Bummed doesn't begin to cover it. Brenna's been gone for three weeks. It sucks. These two women have been my friends, roommates, confidants, inspiration, reality-check, study aids, partners in crime, and support system this year. They are my Mississippi sisters and I miss them dearly. Already. More than I imagined I would.

Before coming to Mississippi, I lived alone for several years and loved it. I swore that I'd never have roommates again. I loved leaving my bed unmade but keeping the bathroom spotless. I made popcorn and cookies for dinner and never felt guilty about how late I stayed up watching bad TV. There were rainy Saturdays when I never left the apartment and spent the entire day without speaking to a single soul.

But I am by nature a social beast. I love being around my favorite people and , with the exception of a few rainy Saturdays, rarely choose alone time if there is an option available to chat, dance, play, walk, eat with friends instead. Living alone, however, I managed my extroverted lifestyle on my own terms and my own time.

Living with five roommates was not something I looked forward to about this YAV program. These people were going to cramp my style, mess up my kitchen and generally annoy me, I was sure. I was so excited to come down here to work and take a go at actually living the church life I talked, read, prayed about and, well, it came with this communal living part that I was going to have to tolerate in order to participate in the experience. eh.

Somehow, through all the family dinners, roller-skating adventures, football gatherings, late-night popcorn binges, spontaneous parties on our porch, heart-to-hearts on the back staircase, open house BBQs, pillow fights, getting-ready marathons, gumbo conversations, road trips, practical jokes, Gilmore/OC dates, and random conversations I fell in love with these people and they became a new family.

I was a girl who arrived in this broken town quite broken myself. The five angels I lived with helped me to open back up again. They challenged me to consider new ideas and explore new questions. They tried to teach me how to really forgive and gave me ample opportunity to practice (he, he). They forgave me. They walked with me down the road of hope. They listened when I needed their ears and they held my hand when LOST spooked me. They gave me books. They gave their hearts. They lifted me up on hard days and cried with me on the dark days. They taught me lessons I should have learned ten years ago. Again. And again. And yes, they did still, at times, annoy the crap out of me. They let me annoy them. They loved me anyway.

I will leave here a better person for living with them and learning from them. And I know that they are all going on to do great work and spread great love. I'm just going to miss them so much. So much.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

5 minutes in my muddy mind

My bike has gone missing. We're not saying it was stolen. It is missing. It's not anywhere at the church where it has been in storage all year. I know, I haven't used the bike much since moving here. I rode my bike about 4 times back in the fall. I almost died 6 times while riding that bike 4 times back in the fall. There are no bike lanes or shoulders on which to ride here and I've learned that Mississippi drivers aren't necessarily on the look-out for bikers. But I loved that bike, Mississippi dust and all. I've had it for years. It's ridden the hills of Maryland and the mountains of Colorado. And now it is gone. I'm choosing to see it as a lesson in the karma of free stuff. I've been on the fortunate receiving end of a lot of free stuff this year (three free meals today alone!). Maybe this is my gift back to the free stuff community. Yeah, that's it.

The missing bike is just another bit to add to my long list of reasons to be stressed this week. My roommate Brenna left a couple of weeks ago. My roommate Linda leaves on Friday. I'm not ready for this experience to end. And I only have two and a half more weeks of work. There are so many homeowners that I want to catch up with and so much work to be done before I go. There's not enough time for 12 cloned Erins to get it all done. The Presbytery has a plan to hire a case manager to replace me, but there's nothing firm in the works yet. I don't know when or if some one will be here to follow up with the folks I've spent the year trying to help. After I finish work, I have to pack and move out. I don't yet know to where I am moving. That's mostly because I don't yet have a job either. I've applied for jobs, but I don't have anything finalized. Urg.

I'm trying to keep my head up through all of this. It helps to know that there are people all over the place who love me and will help me out if I get stuck. I know I can always move back to Maryland if the job thing doesn't pan out down here. I also know there is plenty of work to be done down here. And I know that as frustrated as I may get, there are thousands of homeowners who are much more frustrated than I am. Yes, let's keep this in perspective please.

And now for the good news- the sun came back out today while I was driving over Lake Pontchartrain. It was quite the sight! I was on my way down to New Orleans to meet up with a friend from college who is on the coast with her church mission team. Through the magic of the PC(USA), a random friend in common, and Facebook, I reconnected with a bit of my past. She had me speak to the group of 50, mostly high schoolers, about what I'm doing down here. Talk about a pick-me-up! It was great to see my friend and really great to see people who were interested in helping homeowners. I don't have a whole lot of contact with the volunteer teams anymore and it was nice to pull some of their excitement and drive onto my shoulders.

Ready to attack another day......

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From a hotel room in Atlanta....

...where time is the ultimate luxury.

I'm on my way back to Gulfport after a two week vacation to the East Coast. My flights were delayed and I was left in a hotel in Atlanta overnight. I choose to see this as Delta Airlines recognition of my need for some time and space for a proper emotional transition back into life on the Gulf Coast.

A funny thing happens down there. You get so used to the Katrina mess being an all consuming presence that you don't understand how the rest of the world can function without talking about flood lines, mandatory evacuation zones, smart codes, drywall, plumbing, HVAC, grants, pods, volunteers, FEMA, phase one, phase two, cottages, etc. I forget that there are millions of Americans walking around their daily lives without the constant pressing panic of disaster recovery on their hearts, minds and shoulders.

Then you go to the beach, or M Street in Georgetown, or Harvard Square in Cambridge or the Atlanta Airport. Life goes on like "normal". Families play, people spend way too much money on shoes, cars, clothes, and toys. Dinner out means talk about friends, pop-culture and some politics, sure, but not the homelessness of the thousands on the Gulf Coast- or elsewhere for that matter.

My first instinct is to be angry. I can't tolerate the ignorance and apathy. What are they doing with their time/money/lives?????

But as the two weeks of my vacation went by I am slowly reminded that many of these people are just as absorbed in their own worlds as I am in mine on the Gulf Coast. They are making local schools better and fighting for the environment. They are helping patients at a Baltimore hospital and serving the Rotary in MA. They are promoting eco-tourism in Guatemala and volunteering at church in SC. They are involved in local politics and report the news for the local paper. They are loving, compassionate mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends.

Sure, not everyone in every cute New England boutique is doing everything they can to help out, but....oh hey wait, those are cute shoes. No! How does that happen after only two weeks? The draw of a more comfortable (?) life has sucked me in again. Two freaking weeks. It would be so easy to walk away from the coast right now and find a less-stressful job and a cute downtown apartment in any one of the great places still on my "to live" list.

All of this had me spinning yesterday while enjoying lunch with my cousin on a busy street in Cambridge. I was in no shape to jump on the plane back to Gulfport, to the life I wasn't totally prepared to re-join. Stressed doesn't begin to cover what I was feeling.

But then I heard a little southern in my voice when I spoke with strangers on the T. And I heard myself tell a recent college grad about the work we're doing on the coast and she asked me to email her more information about how to get involved. When I checked in at Logan, they asked if I was going on vacation and I realized after the words had left my mouth that I'd said, "No. I'm going home."

When the flight out of Boston was delayed for an hour and I learned that I'd miss my connection out of Atlanta, I didn't freak out, like so many others flying Delta in or out of ATL yesterday. I was calm the whole time. This is not like me. I had an interview at 8:30 the next morning. I have a full voicemail box. There is so much work to be done and not enough time to do it. But the idea of spending a few hours alone in a hotel room to repair and prepare sounded like an incredible opportunity.

So after some reflection, prayer, and time I am ready to return. There is much work to be done. In Mississippi, but also in Baltimore, DC, Boston, and around the world. God's led me to the Gulf Coast this time. She knows there is a place there for me, because she created it. She gave me great roommates and friends, a loving support system of pastors and volunteers, and plenty of people to help and work to do.

Now I just need to catch one more flight and get to it!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007